Working with Colors in Scribus

9 min read


Scribus 1.3.5: Beginner’s Guide

Scribus 1.3.5: Beginner's Guide

Create optimum page layouts for your documents using productive tools of Scribus.

  • Master desktop publishing with Scribus
  • Create professional-looking documents with ease
  • Enhance the readability of your documents using powerful layout tools of Scribus
  • Packed with interesting examples and screenshots that show you the most important Scribus tools to create and publish your documents.

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(For more resources on Scribus, see here.)

Applying colors in detail

Applying color is as basic as creating a frame or writing text.

In this article we will often give color values. Each time we need to, we will use the first letter of the color followed by its value. For example, C75 will mean 75 percent of cyan. K will be used for black and B for blue.

There are five main things you could apply colors to:

  • Frame or Shape fill
  • Frame or Shape border
  • Line
  • Text
  • Text border

You’d like to colorize pictures too. It’s a very different method, using duotone or any equivalent image effect.

Applying a color to a frame means that you will use the Colors tab of the PP, whereas applying color to text will require you to go to the Color & Effects expander in the Text tab. In both cases you’ll find what’s needed to apply color to the fill and the border, but the user interfaces are a bit different.

(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

Time for action – applying colors to a Text Frame’s text

Colors on frames will use the same color list. Let’s follow some steps to see how this is done.

  1. Draw a Text Frame where you want it on a page.
  2. Type some text inside like “colors of the world” or use Insert | Sample Text.
  3. Go to the Colors tab of the PP (F2). Click on the second button placed above the color list to specify that you want to apply the changes to the fill.
  4. Then click on the color you want in the list below, for example, Magenta.
  5. Click on the paintbrush button, and apply a black color that will be applied to the border (we could call it stroke too).
  6. Don’t forget that applying a stroke color will need some border refinements in the Line tab to set the width and style of the border. If you need more information about these options.
  7. Now, you can select the text or some part of it and go to the Colors & Effects expander of the Text tab.
  8. Here you will again see the same icon we used previously. Each has its own color list. Let’s choose Yellow for the text color.

The stroke color cannot be changed. To change this, click on the Shadow button placed below, and now choose black as the stroke color. The text shadow should be black.

What just happened?

Color on text is quicker than frame colors in some ways because each has its own list. So, there is no need to click on any button, and you can see both at a glance. Just remember that text has no stroke color activated when setting it first. You need to add the stroke or shadow to a selection to activate the border color for that selection.

Quick apply in story editor
If, like me, you like the Story Editor (Edit | Edit Text), notice that colors can be applied from there. They are not displayed in the editor but will be displayed when the changes will be applied to the layout. This is much faster, but you need to know exactly what you’re doing and need to be precise in your selection.

If you need to apply the same color setting to a word in the overall document, you can alternatively use the Edit | Search/Replace window. You can set there the word you’re looking for in the first field, and in the right-hand side, replace with the same word, and choose the Fill and Stroke color that you want to apply. Of course, it would be nice if this window could let us apply character styles to make future changes easier.

The Scribus new document receives a default color list, which is the same all over your document. In this article, we will deal with many ways of adapting existing colors or creating new ones.

Applying shade or transparency

Shade and transparency are two ways of setting more precisely how a specific color will be applied on your items. Shades and transparencies are fake effects that will be interpreted by some later elements of the printing workflow, such as Raster Image Processors, to know how the set color can be rendered with pure colors. This is the key point of reproducing colors: if you want a gray, you’ll generally have a black color for that. In offset printing which is the reference, the size of the point will vary relatively to the darkness of the black you chose. This will be optically interpreted by the reader.

Using shades

Each color property has a Shade value. The default is set to 100 percent, meaning that the color will be printed fully saturated. Reducing the shade value will produce a lighter color. When at 0 percent, the color, whatever it may be, will be interpreted as white.

On a pure color item like any primary or spot, changing the shade won’t affect the color composition. However, on processed colors that are made by mixing several primary colors, modifying the shade will proportionally change the amount of each ink used in the process. Our C75 M49 Y7 K12 at a 50 percent shade value will become a C37 M25 Y4 K6 color in the final PDF. Less color means less ink on the paper and more white (or paper color), which results in a lighter color.

You should remember that Shade is a frame property and not a color property. So, if you apply a new color to the frame, the shade value will be kept and applied immediately.

To change the shade of the color applied to some characters, it will be a bit different: we don’t have a field to fill but a drop-down list with predefined values of 10 percent increments. If you need another value, just choose Other to display a window in which you’ll add the amount that you exactly need. You can do the same in the Text Editor.

Using transparency

While shade is used to lighten a color, the Opacity value will tell you how the color will be less solid. Once again, the range goes from 0%, meaning the object is completely transparent and invisible, to 100% to make it opaque.

The latter value is the default. When two objects overlap, the top object hides the bottom object. But when Opacity is decreased, the object at the bottom will become more and more visible.

One difference to notice is that Opacity won’t affect only the color rendering but the content too (if there is some).

As for Shade, Opacity too is applied separately to the fill and to the stroke. So you’ll need to set both if needed. One important aspect is that Shade and Opacity can both be applied on the frame and a value 50% of each will give a lighter color than if only one was used. Several opacity values applied to objects show how they can act and add to each other:

The background for the text in the title, in the following screenshot, is done in the same color as the background at the top of the page. Using transparency or shade can help create this background and decrease the number of used colors.

Time for action – transparency and layers

Let’s now use transparency and layers to create some custom effects over a picture, as can often be done for covers.

  1. Create a new document and display the Layers window from the Windows menu.
  2. This window will already contain a line called Background. You can add a layer by clicking on the + button at the bottom left-hand side of the window: it will be called New Layer 1. You can rename it by double-clicking on its name.
  3. On the first page of it, add an Image Frame that covers the entire page.
  4. Then draw a rectangular shape that covers almost half of the page height.
  5. Duplicate this layer by clicking on the middle button placed at the bottom of the Layers window.
  6. Select the visibility checkbox (it is the first column headed with an eye icon) of this layer to hide it.
  7. We’ll modify the transparency of each object. Click on New Layer 1 to specify that you want to work on this layer; otherwise you won’t be able to select its frames.
  8. The frames or shapes you’ll create from now on will be added to this layer called New Layer 1.
  9. Select the black shape and decrease the Opacity value of the Colors tab of the PP to 50%. Do the same for the Image Frame.
  10. Now, hide this layer by clicking on its visibility icon and show the top layer.
  11. In the Layers window, verify if this layer is selected and decrease its opacity.

What just happened?

If there is a need to make several objects transparent at once, an idea would be to put them on a layer and set the layer Opacity. This way, the same amount of transparency will be applied to the whole. You can open the Layer window from the Window menu.

When working with layers, it’s important to have the right layer selected to work on it. Basically, any new layer will be added at the top of the stack and will be activated once created.

When a layer is selected, you can change the Opacity of this layer by using the field on the top right-hand side of the Layer window. Since it is applied to the layer itself, all the objects placed on it will be affected, but their own opacity values won’t be changed. If you look at the differences between the two layers we have made, you’ll see that the area in the first black rectangle explicitly becomes transparent by itself because you can see the photo through it. This is not seen in the second.

So using layer, as we have seen, can help us work faster when we need to apply the same opacity setting to several objects, but we have to take care, because the result is slightly different.

Using layers to blend colors
More rarely, layers can be used to mix colors. Blend Mode is originally set to Normal, which does no blending. But if you use any other mode on a layer, its colors will be mixed with colors of the item placed on a lower layer, relatively to the chosen mode. This can be very creative. If you need a more precise action, Blend Mode can be set to Single Object from the Colors tab of the PP. Just give it a try.
Layers are still most commonly used to organize a document: a layer for text, a layer for images, a layer for each language for a multi-lingual document, and so on. They are a smart way to work, but are not necessary in your documents and really we can work without them in a layout program.


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